Mrs. Prendergast’s story about the baby in the baking dish represents Isobel’s own traumatic childhood. Mrs. Prendergast tells Isobel about the time when her neighbor’s husband walked into the kitchen to see his wife casually seasoning their greased and trussed-up baby in a baking dish, ready to place it into the preheated oven. The neighbor’s nonchalant desire to cook her baby alive echoes the blatant cruelty and violent anger that Isobel’s mother constantly unleashed upon Isobel while she was growing up. Isobel must accept the fact that perhaps she will never be able to fully understand or explain what happened to her in her childhood—perhaps one day, her own trauma will be an absurd, dark anecdote told over tea just like the baby in the baking dish.
The Baby in the Baking Dish Quotes in I for Isobel
''Went very funny after the baby was born. Not the first one either, the third. Joe that would have been, got grown-up sons himself now. She was very bad for a while. She came out of it all right in the end.”
“I'm glad to hear that.” Mrs. Bowers' tone admitted that Mrs. Prendergast was not often the bringer of good news.
“It can take you in funny ways. There was the woman lived opposite us in Mudgee. Six weeks old the baby was and they were getting ready to go out. Her husband called out from the door, ‘Are you coming, Dorrie?’ ‘I won't be a minute, dear, I'm just popping the baby in the oven.’ He came running in and there was the baby greased all over and trussed up in the baking dish and the oven hot. He just got to it in time.”
Mrs. Bowers shrieked, 'Oh, my God!'
The tears were coming slowly. How could tears come from so deep, as if she was a tree with tears welling up from its roots? Then they came in a roaring flood that drowned thought; she put her cheek against the rock, which was as rough as a cat's tongue and unyielding, but she was too far gone to feel any perverse pleasure in that. Her sobs were so loud that even in this wasteland she had to put her hands over her mouth to muffle them; when her mind sobered up her body went on snuffling and heaving along ten years of roadway.
I am a writer. I am a writer.
Too late. It must be too late. The poor little bugger in the baking dish; nobody came in time.
Suppose I tried? Suppose I went through the motions? The writer might come back.
You've tried that with love. It doesn't work.
But that was other people, too. This is me.
The crying had slackened. There was such a feeling of limbs stretching, of hands unbound, she knew she could choose to be a writer. A pen and an exercise book, that was all it took, to be a rotten writer, anyhow. Good or rotten' that came later.
It meant giving in to the word factory. That frightened her, because the word factory was such a menace. Now she understood why the idea of being press-ganged was so alarming.
Oh, well. If you can't lick 'em join 'em.
Maybe that was what the word factory was all about, the poor little bugger trying to get out of the baking dish.